Going for 'Distance'

From the Dumpster to the Gallery
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  October 14, 2009


UNDER CONSTRUCTION The upcoming exhibit at SPACE Gallery takes form.

To get an idea of the remarkable sprawl of supplies, clutter, and chaos involved in SPACE Gallery's forthcoming exhibit by Swoon and guest collaborators, "Distance Don't Matter," there are two good places to look: the gallery itself, and SPACE Executive Director Nat May's Facebook page, where quirky updates have been incoming every half-day or so: "Scavenging for art supplies: electric blankets, yarns, big cardboard"; "Looking for frame pieces, old/beat up is good. Especially need something 43 inches"; "One of our artists needs and [sic] orthopedic doctor or someone who can drain fluids from his knee — anyone?"

Inside the gallery, a soundtrack of awesome, obscure garage rock has been playing all weekend, and the space's evolution just begs for a time-lapse video. Friday and Saturday, ceiling-high stacks of reclaimed materials — scrap metal, chipped painted wood, windows, foam, bikes — consumed the lobby. Monday, it was empty, save for a dropcloth and a bucket of sea-green paint, midway through application. In the main gallery, Monica Canilao sits at a sewing machine with five feet of chaotic fabric draped around her like a cape. Conrad Carlson and Ryan Doyle (of the anarchist art group Black Label Bike Club) are chatting up some visitors who look to be off a cruise ship. I see some hacksaws, fabric sewn together to look like encased sausages, a pile of inflated red balloons, and uncountable pieces of cardboard. Swoon (real name Callie Curry), a prominent New York City street artist with work recently also appearing in major galleries, is nowhere to be found at the moment, but evidence of her presence — a few of her street-art style paintings, of skyscrapers and industrial skylines capped with the heads of beautiful saintlike figures — is obvious.

If "Distance Don't Matter," which opens Thursday at 5 pm, is something of a race against the clock at this point — one artist, when I mentioned that it looked like things were starting to take shape on Monday, responded "Oh, that's good to hear" — it's being patched together with calm and cool. (Saturday night, Swoon, toolbelt fastened, was crouched over one of her signature cut-outs, painting vibrant red over a series of tiny diamonds and triangles.) This group has tackled more daunting projects — Swoon and some of the other collaborators took part in two long, widely publicized boat trips, one from Slovenia to Venice and one on the Hudson River, in boats constructed of New York City trash — and the shape of this one, which looks to be one of the most radical reinventions of 538 Congress Street in its six years of installations, is slowly revealing itself.

"Distance Don't Matter" | assemblage/collage/occupation by Swoon several other artists | October 15 through December 18 | reception October 15 @ 5 pm | free artist talk October 17 @ 3 pm | at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St, Portland |space538.org

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